Aug 29, 2017
The other night someone asked me if I was ever plagued by the painter's version of writer's block. Oh yeah, I said. Definitely. As a matter of fact I was in the throes of it as we spoke.
I'd been blissfully moving right along with the fourth panel of a polytriptych that included, of course, tulips. I got this down, I thought when I started. But I found myself slogging through the next to the last blossom. What was it about that damn flower that was trying my patience? After a few days I gave up and painted over it to start again. The second try has shown improvement. It's not done by a long shot but I'm not walking away in disgust. At least at this point I can see the light at the end of the tunnel...I think.
However, the conversation with my friend wasn't so easily rectified. I'm sure that it might be to imagine the process. And I know that each artist has their own way of doing things. It's one reason why there is such a variety in style and expression. There are lots of books that give folks the one, two three of painting. There are YouTube videos galore. But he said to me, "why don't you just look at something instead of just making it up." I do, I said. I have my sketch, I have a photo reference and my computer set up as well so I can isolate an area and do color checks. But even with all of that I find myself trying to paint what I think something looks like instead of what it really looks like.
When we're in kindergarten we paint all our houses with a pitched roof and one door. No windows. Mom or Dad may or may not have arms and usually someone has inordinately long legs. No torso. I find myself doing it now, rounding edges instead of letting the edges subtly ungulate like they do in nature. Letting go of one's preconceived notions of the material world helps me move closer to it.
My friend and I talked past each other for a while before deciding to move on to other topics. I just couldn't explain to him that yes, I was looking. What he didn't understand was that looking and seeing are different things.
I've put down my brushes for the day. Hopefully I'll return tomorrow with a renewed vision. And hopefully, I'll let go of what I think things should be and accept them for what they are.
Photos from top: Family 2 [unfinished] © Lissa Banks 2017, my studio setup.